Thoughts On The Pilipinas 2016 Debate

I caught approximately 75% of the debate after searching for the live stream on my phone and getting it to display on the TV (we don’t have cable or free tv). I first happened onto what was a GMA7 screen which turned out to be what they show online during a TV commercial break so I thought there was something wrong, which made me go over and try a few times till I finally saw the debate action.

So anyway here’s what I remember from it.


It’s hard not to see this man as anything but a crook. Even if his daughter’s claim that he was just giving out ‘Christmas cash gifts a few years ago’ is true it still speaks volumes of him using Political Patronage to the bone. The proper way to help is via strengthening local government agencies that exist for exactly that purpose. Decades of corruption made the poor not know any better so they are going to hold onto whoever gives them help, especially if he gives them straight up cash, and he is counting on that as he sits on that chair doling it out.

Binay’s debate arguments were clearly targeting the administration and therefore Roxas, saying it under-spent and is insensitive. Attacking the supposed front runner would be the right thing to do so Binay is on the right track in focusing on Roxas. Arguing against the others is secondary to that. The problem in that strategy though is that his arguments need to be stronger.

Underspending, while bad, can be interpreted as government trying to be careful as a recent article interviewing DMCI Holdings states. After decades of mismanagement most people will want the government to do exactly that so using that as an argument against it is weak. Binay has a better chance using the ‘insensitive’ argument because Mar nor PNoy for that matter aren’t the sort of guys who would sit on a street corner handing out cash, or play up to the cameras by ‘eating with the poor’ or that sort of thing. The ‘bobotantes’ amongst us are suckers for that so Binay is using that to his advantage.


If there is ever anyone we know who can put on a show it’s Sen. Santiago, there is no debate there. So the fact we didn’t get one is an indication of what everyone suspects, which is that she is not well.

Her performance here didn’t reveal anything particularly special or at least none I can recall. There was a brief tussle with Binay on the Anti Dynasty issue, where she insists and quite rightly so that there is already an Anti – Dynasty provision in the Constitution and that it is to be applied ‘without more, without less’. Binay countered by stating she had a son who was elected, which she then countered by saying he was a Party list representative for a term but he isn’t in government now.

Santiago of old would have absolutely attacked Binay at that point, and lambasted him and maybe Congress as well for adopting a porous translation of the bill, one that clearly favors their own intent. But she let this pass and that had me shaking my head.

On the bill itself, Binay used the ‘vox populi’ argument against Anti – Dynasty and I think he should go with that as it is the strongest. But the problem with him is he is just too corrupt. All his family is in politics, and if he wins there will be a Binay in two of the three branches of government, one in each of the Legislative. He is the living breathing reason why the Anti – Dynasty bill exists so he is the worst person to debate against it.


Of all I wanted to hear from most it would be Duterte. Here is the guy who has captured the country’s imagination with his macho ways, and the one person who represents change. While Roxas preaches continuity, Duterte represents the alternative and this has polarized the base.

He also represents the popular belief that a leader can just do whatever he wants and will always get away with it. Dealing with a criminal? Shoot him! Drug cartel? Stop them in 3 days! He makes it sound easy which is what macho people tend to do. It sounds reassuring and certainly puts him in the news.

The problem with that is people tend to believe everything can be fixed just as quickly and that it’s that simple. Duterte represents a world of black and white in what is actually a very grey, very complex world.

If you catch a criminal you have to make sure he really is guilty of all accusations so that his lawyers can never mount an argument against you. That means the very unexciting, time consuming process of conducting an investigation, hearing either party’s arguments, applying appropriate punishment etc. You know, something called due process. But that takes time and people are either forgetful, or unaware the process exists or distrusts it due to decades of martial law and the style of governing it popularized. Years after we still hear of public officials from the Bgy. Captains to Mayors and Congressmen lording it over like feudal lords over their little kingdoms.

The argument for Duterte is this: Why not elect someone who acts like them but is on your side, right?

I observe however, that Duterte’s reputation seems to over shadow who he really is, and he isn’t as radical as he may seem. Here he was actually non – confrontational and in fact agrees with his opponents a few times. Once with Roxas, when the discussion was about how the economy improved under the present government, only adding a few thoughts of his own. Another with Poe when he admits that accusations of lasciviousness and womanizing were ‘mostly true’. And finally, quite graciously on his part, he sees no reason why Santiago shouldn’t campaign as he doesn’t see her dying in the next 20 years.

The issue I see against him is really, his being too macho for his own good. I don’t care what you say, you cannot eliminate criminality in six months. Assuming it was, wouldn’t it therefore be prudent to share this magic information that could do that at this time? My own personal experiences with macho guys aren’t too promising. Anyone who’s hung out or played sports with guys who talk a lot of game knows these are the guys who have the least. People try to compensate in many ways and a running mouth is often a dead giveaway.

Nevertheless he appears to be extremely honest and competent. He can very well put his tremendous popularity and charisma to good use. He was obviously not interested in running but eventually he had to give in to his own popularity. People eat up anything he says and are enamored of him. He deserves a leadership position in government although I’m not sure it is as President.


She is the second person I was most interested to hear from because I wanted her to answer the question: ‘What do you bring to the table?’

If there were complaints about the debate not giving the candidates enough ‘time to shine’ then unfortunately I would think this most applies to her. I heard a lot of motherhood statements and hardly got enough substance.

Her argument against Duterte about his acts of lasciviousness was a prime opportunity for her to champion women’s rights and berate him if she could, considering Duterte wears his womanizing like a badge of honor. Instead she sends a confused message about not approaching women in case ‘may asawa o may boyfriend o kung ano pa man‘, and that he was while he was being a bad example to the youth ‘At least alam natin si Mayor Duterte minsan dati sinasabi naman niya iyong mga hindi niya nararapat na nagawa noon. Pero pareho lang naman kami. Tao rin, nagkakamali. Pero isusulong ko palagi ang pagrespeto ano man ang iyong kasarian, babae ka man, lalaki, LGBT. Lahat po tayo ay mayroon kaunting paggalang sa isa’t isa


Given the moral authority so graciously handed to her she certainly could have done better. Second, her response is essentially the verbal equivalent of a slap on the wrist, or rather a feigned reprimand like a woman lightly tapping a guy on the shoulder as she smiles. This might do in a private meeting later amongst friends, but not in a nationwide debate where votes are on the line.

Can you zigzag on topics any harder? From how to treat women to ok maybe he’s not too bad, then let’s forgive him because we all make mistakes, but let’s respect everyone no matter what gender and finally ok we all respect each other – she’s one of those people who can say so much yet not really say anything at the same time.

Her BBL reply were also made in such a way so as to be convoluted yet positive enough to avoid the question of whether she would pursue it if she becomes President. Her answer is the kind of voluminous non information that makes your eyes glaze while trying to read it, which is probably the desired effect.

She does a little better in the other questions by being more specific, such as when she declares the need for free lunches in public schools (a big plus imo), and how much farmers can improve income when talking about agriculture modernization.

Santiago’s rebuttal however sums up most of the arguments against her, which went something like ‘promises are very easy.. but who has really done anything’? You get the feeling Poe is working extra hard to compensate for her lack of experience by making promises, delving into detail and becoming verbose.

And finally the issue of her qualifications were not taken up at all, nor were any questions asked of how she may be riding on the popularity of her father’s name. The fact these were not discussed were disappointing yet given the odd way she answers questions I’m sure we would not have gotten anything definitive anyway.


If Poe is verbose, Roxas is verbose,  monotonous, lacking in variety, dull, unexciting, and loud. He is almost mechanical, and when he tries to liven things up a bit he looks like a robot trying to act tough. The most constant argument against him really, is ‘wala siyang dating.’, and his attempts to counter that with his commercials have been cringe worthy to say the least.

He reminds me almost too much of PNoy, which is his equal in lack of ability to properly express himself or give a good rousing speech. Whenever I hear him talk I beg him to try to slow down and enunciate. Give emphasis to key points. Work up to the areas where you want your public to pay most attention. Don’t just ramble on in an unvarying tone of voice. I sometimes think he’s given up at times, and just goes through the motions as fast as he can because he doesn’t think anyone listens anymore, which is probably true.

This, plus their determination never to promote themselves or their achievements in any way allows their opponents to have a field day on social media, making up memes and finding various ways to misinterpret or report them with bias.

The problem is that while boring, there is meat in what PNoy and Mar says. Mar WAS at Tacloban before, during and several days after Yolanda. There was even a picture of him helping scrape debris off the airport so the planes could land. Also contrary to popular opinion, Mar apparently did what he could to get the MRT back into shape. The fact that the MRTH isn’t suing the DOTC for taking over, and is instead resorting to mud slinging, is the best proof of that.

Then there is the continuity that he claims to represent.

Never in my 47 years did I ever think that Senators, let alone three of the most famous ones, would be in jail pending a court case. Never did I think a fish as big as Napoles would ever actually be caught. Our economy is booming and joblessness is the lowest its been in years. We’re implementing an education system that is up to par with the world and adopted a reproductive health act that, while stunted due to idiots in the Senate, promises to stop an out of control population explosion. We’re going to get trains that will decentralize Manila, and we’re building up an Armed Forces that hasn’t seen a jet since 2005.

The fruits of such things are only to be realized decades from now, and so the continuity argument is undeniably strong.

Yet what do the people complain about? Pictures of Roxas directing traffic, falling off a motorcycle, eating off a cup, and so on. It’s safe to say his message, if any, isn’t getting across.


This Debate is Roxas doing more of the same. I can expound on some of the good or bad things he may have said, but a lot of people aren’t focused as much on what he’s saying as to the manner and delivery of how he says it. Roxas, like PNoy, is the most unintelligible, unphotogenic, least ‘likable’ in a traditional politician way of all the candidates, yet for some odd reason he suffers for it.

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